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AFMC leaders plan toward summer stand-up of new centers

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio -- Implementation details of the Air Force Materiel Command's restructure were refined when commanders and senior civilians from across AFMC gathered here for their annual Senior Leader Conference March 27 to 29, 2012.

The focus of the conference was detailed planning on the command initiative to reduce its number of centers from 12 to five. The restructure was announced in November 2011 as a major part of AFMC's response to a Department of Defense challenge to find efficiencies and save tax dollars.

Leaders discussed everything from stand-up of new centers this summer to how various support functions such as contracting, financial management, and personnel services will be aligned to center and non-center locations.

"Last year at this time, we held a historic meeting that resulted in the decision to restructure," said Gen. Donald Hoffman, commander of AFMC. "Following Secretary of the Air Force Donley's approval, intense planning and hard work ensued, but much more work still lies ahead.

"The restructure will bring us closer to the organization envisioned in 1992 when Air Force leaders merged the former Air Force Logistics Command and Air Force Systems Command to form AFMC," the general said. The intent of the merger was to create a single command to manage the entire life cycle of Air Force aircraft and other systems.

Extensive planning has gone on for several months and command officials are nearing the point where Congressional reporting requirements will be complete and they will transition from planning to the early stages of implementation of the five-center structure in order to achieve initial operational capability Oct. 1.

Plans call for the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center at Wright-Patterson, the Air Force Sustainment Center at Tinker AFB, Okla., and the Air Force Test Center at Edwards AFB, Calif., to be activated this summer. The other two centers that comprise the new structure, Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center at Kirtland AFB, N.M., and Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright-Patterson, will remain essentially as they are today.

Soon after the activations, AFMC's current centers at Wright-Patterson, Hanscom, Eglin, Robins, Tinker, Hill, Edwards, Arnold and Scott AFBs will be inactivated or redesignated, and their subordinate units will be attached to the new centers. In some cases, organizational names will change.

However, the standup of the new centers will hinge on three important milestones: Senate confirmation of key leadership positions, the delivery of two Congressionally-mandated reports on the restructure, and Headquarters Air Force approval of AFMC's formal organizational change request. The Senate has already confirmed Lt. Gen. Janet Wolfenbarger as AFMC's next commander and Lt. Gen. C.D. Moore II as the commander of the new Life Cycle Management Center. Two other command positions are pending confirmation. Command officials emphasized stand-ups will only occur after Congressional reporting is complete and the change request is approved.

Command officials said the stand-ups are the beginning of restructure implementation and should not be confused with initial operational capability in October. Once new center frameworks are stood up, command officials will begin linking subordinate units to their respective centers, attaching more and more functions as they build toward IOC in October and eventual full operational capability in mid-2013.

The restructure plan will cut overhead costs and redundant layers of staff. It is expected to generate Air Force savings of $109 million annually while improving AFMC's overall management and lines of communication, and standardizing many processes. Throughout the transition, command planners continue to be led by a very deliberate, focused governance process that includes weekly updates to an executive steering group.

As AFMC moves toward implementation, it will use all personnel management options available to mitigate impacts on civilian employees. The command has already offered two rounds of the Voluntary Early Retirement Authority and Voluntary Separation Incentive Payment, or VERA/VSIP, program and will offer a third round where needed across the command. Also, command officials remain engaged with civilian employee unions to keep them updated on the restructure.